The ground is level at the foot of the cross....recovering addict rescued by the saving grace of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Are You On Track?

I subscribe to several financial publications. The cover of the latest Money magazine is pictured below.

The headline story is titled "Are You On Track?" The first sentence says "FACE IT: YOU CAN'T HELP COMPARING YOURSELF WITH THE JONESES." It goes on to give tons of stats to compare yourself to. It even gives you a "How You Stack Up" chart that tells you if you're keeping up with your neighbors. This includes comparisons on the value of your home, your income, your debt, etc. etc.

For some reason, this really, really bothers me. If you look at the picture it shows a happy couple smiling for the camera, with the title written over them. Is this what we've been reduced to? Is the our value measured in dollar signs? Or maybe in our physical beauty? Maybe, we measure our value based on the praise of others of our children's accomplishments? Perhaps you're one of those people that only feel cherished when others are lavishing attention on you, and when that attention fades you feel empty.

It makes me wonder, How do we really determine if we are on-track? Who's "track" are we on? Are we on our own track? American society's track? Our family's track? What if there's a better way? What if God's plan for us doesn't involve us counting up all our possessions to determine who's the best person?

Pastor Rob Bell from Mars Hill Bible Church in Michigan addresses how truly blessed America is in last week's sermon, entitled Calling All Peacemakers: The questions of a kingdom. The slides that he used during the sermon can be found here. The bottom line is that the United States possess 21% of the entire world's wealth. At no other time in the world's history has this much wealth been consolidated in one country.

The Parable of the Rich Fool in Luke 12:16-21 says:

16And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. 17He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.'

18"Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." '

20"But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'

21"This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God."

Pastor Tim Lucas, from Liquid Church, in a series titled Money, Debt and the Bible, discusses how this rich man realizes that he has too much stuff and has to build a bigger place to store it. His goal is to retire, eat, drink, and be merry. He isn't crazy, HE'S AMERICAN!!! How many of us have three car garages but don't have three cars? Myself included. One of the fastest growing business are off-site storage places. We're paying someone else to store our extra junk.

It all comes down to this. Many of us don't realize how truly, truly rich we are. 92% of the rest of the world don't even own a car, not to say two or three. The AVERAGE American lives in a lifestyle that only Royalty lived before. We are rich beyond compare. If statistics are to be believed, $20 billion dollars is required to provide everyone in the world with basic food, water, and shelter. The US spent $20 billion dollars on ice cream last year.

Think, just think, of how much GOOD we can do. Think about what God expects out of people that are as blessed as we are. Mary and I have spent over $700 this year on presents. A goat that will nourish a family for a year costs $75. We didn't buy a goat. We didn't. But if I look on the "How You Stack Up" chart, I'm right there in the Upper Middle Class. We're so blessed and we couldn't be bothered to buy a goat. So ask yourself, "Are You On Track with God's Plan for You?"

Friday, November 10, 2006

Boys' School Photos

Thursday, October 12, 2006

My friend, the comedian

My old company executive officer is now a comedian. Just click the area below.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Abortion Banned in South Dakota

I used to think that South Dakota had very little to offer other than the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore. I would have never believed that this state would become the most contested battleground in the war against abortion.

Pro-Family Groups Hail South Dakota Abortion Ban

by Wendy Cloyd, assistant editor

The state now faces legal challenges that will likely end up before the Supreme Court.

South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds signed into law today a bill that outlaws nearly all abortions in the state. Planned Parenthood has already announced plans to challenge its constitutionality.

The law states that "life begins at the time of conception, a conclusion confirmed by scientific advances since the 1973 decision of Roe v. Wade, including the fact that each human being is totally unique immediately at fertilization."

It also guarantees the rights of the mother and the unborn child and states the only way to fully protect both is to prohibit abortion.

"Guarantee of due process of law under the Constitution of South Dakota applies equally to born and unborn human beings," the law reads, "and . . . under the Constitution of South Dakota, a pregnant mother and her unborn child, each possess a natural and inalienable right to life."

Rounds said lawmakers were right to protect preborn children.

"In the history of the world, the true test of a civilization is how well people treat the most vulnerable and most helpless in their society," he said. "The sponsors and supporters of this bill believe that abortion is wrong because unborn children are the most vulnerable and most helpless persons in our society. I agree with them."

Planned Parenthood, not surprisingly, does not.

"Planned Parenthood denounced South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds' signing of the South Dakota abortion ban today, vowing to fight the ban in court to protect the rights and health of women and families in South Dakota and across the country," the pro-abortion group announced on its Web site. "The Planned Parenthood community is deeply concerned and outraged."

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said the decision by the South Dakota Legislature sends a strong message to the nation that "judicial intimidation is over."

"This is how our system of government should work," he said. "The elected representatives of the people set policy that is reflective of the people they represent."

Perkins said technology and scientific information about prenatal development have steadily overcome the myths and lies perpetuated by the abortion industry.

"Give the people or their elected representatives a voice," he said, "and you will find that most of America wants major changes in the abortion-on-demand regime that has stood only by judicial fiat for 33 years."

Bruce Hausknecht, judicial analyst for Focus on the Family Action, said the South Dakota law does directly challenge Roe v. Wade, which gave constitutional recognition to a "right" to abortion.

"The South Dakota law criminalizes all abortion except to save the life of the mother," he told CitizenLink. "If it wasn't going to be challenged in court, the law could go into effect and be enforced."

Planned Parenthood and other abortion groups, he added, will file a lawsuit before the effective date of the new law, seeking an injunction against its enforcement.

"In all likelihood, a federal court will issue an injunction blocking the law, which will be appealed to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, and ultimately to the Supreme Court," Hausknecht said. "That process will take at minimum a couple years to complete. No federal court below the Supreme Court is empowered to overrule Roe v. Wade and declare that South Dakota 's ban to be constitutional."

Once the case makes it to the Supreme Court, the outcome will depend on the make-up of the high court at that time. Until then, abortion will remain legal in South Dakota .

"By the time the case makes it to the Supreme Court, one or two liberal judges will have retired, replaced by constitutionalists who will once and for all overrule Roe, which will send the abortion issue to the states," Hausknecht said. "At that point, South Dakota 's statute will also be upheld and any injunction dissolved."

Carrie Gordon Earll, senior analyst for bioethics at Focus on the Family Action, said South Dakota 's stand could just be the first of many. Several other states are now considering similarly sweeping pro-life legislation.

"The pro-abortion Center for Reproductive Rights predicted in October of 2004 that as many as thirty states are poised to pass similar abortion bans once the Supreme Court barrier to such action is removed," she said. "Today's brave action in South Dakota may be the first step in making that a reality."

This is truly the most exciting news that I've heard in years! Naturally, the liberals are hell bent on preserving their right to kill the unborn. They are bring in power players like Jane "Hanoi Jane" Fonda and Robin Williams. They have a budget of $8 million and are launching a media blitz on the citizens of South Dakota trying to get them to repeal that law next month.

We, as Christians, have a responsibility to fight for this law. Details can be found on the Vote Yes For Life homepage. I urge any of you who have friends in South Dakota to contact them and explain to them how critical their vote is. If you can donate your time, then consider organizing a missionary campaign (yes, you can do missionary work here within the US!). At the very least pray for the success of this law and for the unborn children that can't defend themselves.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Marina's Volleyball Picture

Here's Marina's volleyball picture for this fall.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Survivor Cook Island: Asian-Americans listed as Favorite Race.

For those of you who weren't aware, this season's Survivor contestants are organized by race. There are four groups, Asians, Hispanics, Caucasians, and Blacks. Now, imagine the conversations going on in our Mexican-Vietnamese Czech household!

I won't tell you what group lost, but the group that finished first today was........ wait for it...... The Asians!!!!! They were followed by the Hispanics, so in my mind everyone in the household won. There was a puzzle near the end and I told Mary that the Asians were going to win because of the puzzle. She threatened and is still threatening to kick my ass, but nevertheless, the hispanics were leading UNTIL they hit the puzzle portion. Mary just hit my shoulder so I hope that the hispanics win next week and the asians come in second.

According to Gambling911, the Asian Americans were listed as the favorite. Now, since Gambling 911 has a huge asian base, this shouldn't be a big surprise. The Asian-American forum, Yellowworld has a ton of comments as well.
There is a lot of debate about this season, but I think it's really interesting. The minorities all feel that they have to represent their race in a positive light, while the caucasians seem more interested in hooking up with each other. We'll see if that makes a difference in the long run.

Oh I have to go now. Anna's asleep and that means Mary and I can get some private time........ TTFN.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Crocodile Hunter

Look, the latest fad! Gator Tagging!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Honoring My Wife

I was listening to a radio interview with Rob and Dianne Parsons, who run Care for the Family in the UK. It is similair to Focus on the Family. Caroly Parson hosts seminars for stay-at-home mothers, where she discusses the many challenges of staying at home. More importantly, she tells the mothers how truly important their services are. My favorite line of the interview went something like this:

"When a person asks me, as a stay-at-home mom, what I do for a living, I like to tell them that I am a Social Director that is currently working with three age groups. The first group are infants to toddlers, which requires a certain amount of expertise in psychology and a lot of hard work. The next group is with teenagers, and I confess that this program hasn't been going as well as we would like. The last group is a gentlemen who's in his late thirties to early forties and is exhibiting all the symptoms of a mid-life crisis. This one requires a great deal of patience anda degree in psychology."

I loved that tale and to me it real captures the importance and complexity of what Mary does every day with the kids (except for the mid-life crisis, I went through that in my mid-twenties so I could knock it out while I still had plenty of energy). There are many times, particularly when money is tight (which is most of the time), that Mary questions the value of what she does. Nevertheless, she is working seven days a week, almost 15 hours a day! If I had to pay someone that it would cost me an arm and a leg. More importantly, everday she is developing our kids into mature, God-loving, adults (the next question is when will I mature?) and there is no greater accomplishment than this.

So, I just wanted to publically thank, my wife, and all stay-at-home mothers, for all the sacrifices they do. It may be thankless to some, but for those that it really matters to, we can't thank you enough.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Podcast Ministries

You know what's incredible? Podcasts Ministries! I know, I know, what am I talking about? Podcasts are pretty much radio talk shows converted into a MP3 that you can download on your MP3 Player. The nice thing about podcasts is that you don't have to have a huge radio studio to make them.

Recently I've been listening to two ministries on my iPod. Focus on the Family with Dr. James Dobson and Family Life Today with Dennis Rainey.

Both can be downloaded at the links provided. I started listening to them shortly after getting my iPod because I had listened to all of my Doctor Who - Big Finish Adventures and the songs on the radio (yes even on my Sirius radio!) were starting to get a bit repetitious. Lots of time when I'm driving I'm unable to listen to an entire radio show because my drive doesn't exactly coincide with the show. A 20 minute drive just doesn't cover the entire 30 minute . Enter ..... the podcast!

These two ministries have really made me do a lot of thinking about my family and our connection with God. I realize that there were a lot of times that I have not set the best example for my kids by the way I act or speak. I listed to them for about a hour a day and they've also helped me start to begin the process of recovery from a lot of the life's pitfalls that I've found myself in.

Most recently, there has been a series of episodes about raising children in a society that is obsessed with sex. I believe that every parent is concerned about this. What I didn't realize though, were all the wonderful resources out there that help parents connect with both the Lord and their children in order maintain their purity. The Christian Contemporary artist Rebecca St. James and writer Dannah Gresh have set up a series call Secret Keeper Girl that organizes 8 mother/daughter dates to discuss these topics.

Marina seems to have a connection with Rebecca St. James and BarlowGirl, whose concert we will be attending in October. I pray that these positive influences will have a lasting impact in her life. I think the thought of my daughter losing her innocence is one of the most stressful thoughts I can imagine.

Also, there is a very eye-opening book, Teaching True Love to a Sex-at-13 Generation, written by Eric and Leslie Ludy. I read the first chapter and it really made me want to sit down with Marina and build on our relationship. The other thing I realized though was that I have to start these talks with the kids at a much younger age, which means talking with Phillip and Nicholas. Children at their age are being introduced to society's image of sex already. This is a very disturbing thought, but if Mary and I ignore that fact then the influence of TV, music, peers, etc. will be how our kids form their view of themselves and of the opposite sex.

The thought of talking to my two boys about sex, purity, and God is pretty daunting, especially if you know my two boys. I wonder if I can somehow connect it to Star Wars to keep their attention?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

August ReCap

Mary and the kids are in Minnesota for Carter's birthday party right now. I wished I could have been there but the Mission Readiness Exercise (MRX) that we've been putting together kicks off this week and it's always busiest right before the beginning. In fact, at this point in most exercises or deployments, everyone just wants to get started and stop overthinking everything. We're training almost 1,000 soldiers over the next couple of weeks! Fortunately, things are finally starting to come together, which is better than we thought about two weeks ago. Also, we're getting a lot of the OC/T (Observer Controller/Trainers) in. These people have a lot of experience and it's really helping with the final stages of preparation. Last night we issued the Operations Orders (OPORD) to the units going through the exercise. It was pretty bloodless, which is a huge change from 3/2 SBCT or 3d ACR, where these sort of things can become quite bloody. The exercise begins in just three days and then things will finally start moving to a steady flow.

Since, I haven't written for a month (and I'm still trying to get Mary to write another submission) here's a couple of big events that have happened in the last 30 days:

1) Attack of the Bees!

Marina was cutting the front yard and drove over an underground yellowjacket hive. She kept driving and was out of the area before the wasps got out of the hive to attack, but Anna was not! They swarmed over her and Mary had to run and grab her, getting stung several times in the process. Between the two of them they had almost twenty stings! Mary had three stings in one earlobe, which made her look like a lopsided mexican version of Dumbo. Both are finally getting better and to quote a co-worker, "Anna has the start of a great phobia."

2) Mary Gets All Four Wisdom Teeth Sawed Out!

Last week the team at Gunderson-Lutheran removed Mary's four impacted wisdom teeth. Ouch!!!!!

3) Mary Meets Her First 10% Weight Loss Goal!

Wow! Congratulations Mary! I'm so proud of you. The Weight Watchers Program has been working great for her, mainly because of the support groups. When she gets to her weight loss goal I promised I would buy her a new wardrobe. I think I'll be happy and sad that day.

4)I Got an iPod!

One of the guys at work sold me his 60GB G4 Photo iPod for $150. I love it and have been playing with it and all the podcasts for the last four weeks.

I also bought a FM Transmitter for it that allows me to use it with any radio.

5) MAJOR Mike

Looks like the Army has finally got desperate enough to promote me. Actually it was really wonderful because both sides of the family were there. The last time that my parents were at an Army ceremony was when I was first commissioned. Here are a couple of pics.

6) Attack of the BATS!

Bats number three and four were in the house last week. Number three was dead laying in Marina's room. We think the ceiling fan killed it. Marina found it when she was laying on the floor and Phillip saw it right next to her head.

We first met number four while watching a movie and it flew through the living room. We couldn't find it that night so the kids all slept in our room. The next night while Mary and I were going to the bathroom at 2AM it flew by me and I chased after it and killed it with my Daisy-Wilson combination bat extermination weapon. It's actually my tennis racket and BB gun.


Well, gotta run and get ready for church.

Thursday, July 20, 2006


Hope everyone likes the changes to our Blog.

For our vacation, we went to a Christian concert in Oshkosh, WI. It was one of those 5-day concerts and in true Pavek style we went for one day.

The day before we had come home after spending a week in MN with Abuela and going to Leah's wedding. It was my third trip from Minnesota so we were all a little tired and decided to sleep in later than originally planned (we were going to leave at about 7 AM). However, after everyone deciding that they wanted to eat and us going through our normal chaotic decision making process that resulted in 3/4 of the family eating at the local Kwik Trip and the rest eating at Subways, we left at 10 AM. Still, it was going to be a long day so there was no sense in getting toooooo upset.

A few hours later we made it up there and we were all excited to get going. Mary suggested that Phillip take out his Razor scooter and ride it around. I thought that it would be best if he kept it in the van until we got a chance to see around. He took the scooter.

The first thing that we saw there was actually the Kids Zone play area. It was a pretty neat setup, however, there was one ladder and slide that kids were racing up and down. The workers at the bottom were timing them to see who went the fastest. I thought to myself that this was a recipe for disaster. Just as I thought that, one young Einstein thought that it would be faster to skip the slide portion and just jump off. I thought to myself, "that's going to hurt" as he screamed in agony and was carried away. My kids, on the other hand, had a good time.

Nick at the Kids Zone

After that we went to a panel with the band BarlowGirl and Rebecca Saint James. It was called a Purity Panel and discussed maintaining a teenager's virginity and modesty. I really liked what they had to say, even if I didn't agree with it all.

After that we went to the Worship Together booth to listen to some live music. Afterwards we went to the Grandstand to listen to the first concert. A woman was nice enough to point us to an open area in the second row!!!! The first concert was Todd Agnew. I really love his voice, although the crowd wasn't as into him as they would later get for the follow-on acts.

BarlowGirl came next. This was my favorite show of the night. They had a lot to say and they sounded fantastic. After the show we got in line and got their autographs.

Afterwards, Rebecca Saint James performed. Mary really loved what she had to say and her show was also really great. Her brother, who was one of the background singers, reminded me of what Phjllip might be like when he gets older. Of course, we got her autograph afterwards as well.

The last show that we saw was Michael W. Smith, although I didn't see much of that because I was in line for Rebecca St. James. TobyMac played after Michael W. Smith, but by that time it was already 11:30 PM and we were all feeling pretty tired. I wished I could have stayed and saw the show, but was glad that I left when I did, because Mary and I were pretty slap happy on the ride home.

All in all it was an experience that left a huge impact on us. It was so incredible to be surrounded by people that were there to worship Christ and hopefully we'll all be there for next year's concert.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Sorry France!!!!!

Today was the World Cup Finals with '98 World Cup Champ, France playing against Italy. Italian player De Rossi was responsible for the vicious elbow to US Player Brian McBride. Consequently, FIFA suspended De Rossi for 4 World Cup matches! The best part, however, was when a French player "accidently" elbowed De Rossi in the head, taking him out of most of the game.

Later on in the game, star French Player, Zidane got into an argument with an Italian player that resulted in the Masters of the Universe style headbutt that you see. It resulted in Zidane receiving a Red Card and getting ejected from the game. When the game went into overtime and later into a penalty shootout, Zidane's absence resulted in France LOSING the match! Viva la France!!!!!!!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Abuela and Leah's Wedding

[Listening to: Indescribable - Chris Tomlin - Arriving [Enhanced] (03:57)]

Mary's grandmother, Aunt Carmen and Uncle Sam visited this week from Texas. They came up for Leah's wedding and to see everyone. The last time that Mary's Grandma (referred to from here on as Abuela) came was several years ago. The last time that I was able to see her was when Mary and I were dating, about 14 years ago!!!! Back then I didn't leave the best impression with her and wanted to change that. We arrived at the Wedding Reception hall about a hour before they arrived. My in-laws were there decorating. I thought that everyone's hair would be on fire, but for the most part things were fairly calm and collected. The table decorations looked really nice, and as a guy that's about all the comments I should make about decorations.

The wedding was conducted in a beautiful nearby church and was a really nice ceremony. They handed out balloons that were suppose to be held until the bride and groom stepped out of the church then all were suppose to be released simultaneously. The reception meal was easily one of the best I've ever had. It wasn't anything fancy, just stuffing, turkey etc, but it was very well made. I think I must have put on at least 5 lbs from that meal.

The visit from Abuela turned out really well and my kids really liked their family members from Texas. We told them that we would visit them once we were stationed in Kansas (it would cut about 8-9 hours off of our drive). The biggest benefit from the visit was that the kids FINALLY have an interest in learning spanish. Maybe we'll just move them to Texas or Mexico for a few years so they learn!

Below are several pictures of the wedding. For the record, my digital camera sucks!!!!! I couldn't get many good photos. I had to use the video camera to take some photos. The video camera works well as a video camera, not a photo camera. We'll have more in the near future once I can get my hands on a few people's memory cards.

Anna and Felipe

Outside the Church


Monday, July 03, 2006

Blog Editor Test

[Listening to: Does Anyone Hear Her - Casting Crowns - Lifesong (04:30)]

I downloaded Blog Editor that is suppose to make it easier for me to type my entries. Mainly I got it, along with a Windows Media Player plug-in, to add the "Listening To" line. We'll see if this one works.

On top of that, it was a great weekend. My sister-in-law got married and Mary's grandmother and aunt came up from Texas. The last time I saw her Grandma was about 14 years ago! Things went well and I'll talk about it more later. I'm hungry and am going to find something to eat. TTFN.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

What It Means to Love a Soldier

Got this from a friend and wanted to share it with everyone. It made me realize just how much my wife does for the family every time that I'm gone. I'm so lucky to have her in my life.

What it Means to Love a Soldier
By Jamie Reese

Special to American Forces Press Service

FORT HOOD, Texas, Oct. 8, 2003 -- She stands in line at the post office waiting to send a package to her husband, a U.S. Army soldier serving in Kuwait. Envelopes, pens, paper, stamps, sunscreen, eye-drops, gum, batteries, powdered Gatorade, baby wipes and Twizzlers. He said he needed the sunscreen and baby wipes. She threw in the Twizzlers.

There's a common bond at the post office in this military town. People aren't just sending letters and packages; they are sending smiles, hope, love and just a touch of home. People look around at the others, sharing their concern, fear and pride. They take comfort knowing they are not alone.

Passing through the gate leaving the Army post, she enters another world. A world filled with pawnshops, surplus stores, barbershops, fast food galore and, of course, "Loans, Loans, Loans."

This is a life that includes grocery shopping at a place called the Commissary. A life that has her venturing to the Post Exchange, referred to as the PX, instead of heading to Wal-Mart. This is where you come to learn, appreciate and respect the ceremonious traditions of Reveille and Retreat, and of course, the National Anthem from a completely different perspective.

At 6 a.m., or as the soldiers call it, 0600 hours, Reveille can be heard across post. The bugle call officially begins the military workday. At 1700 hours Retreat sounds signaling the day's end. Soldiers render salutes, chatter fades and all eyes are drawn to the nearest flag. At 2300 hours, the bugle sounds Taps, denoting not only the "final hour" of the day, but also honoring those we have lost.

When the national anthem plays in a military town, a special aura fills the air. Men, women, and even children stop to pay their respects. Civilians place their hands over their hearts. Soldiers salute. In this world, the anthem isn't just a prequel to the echo of "Play Ball." Since she married her soldier and experienced the Star Spangled Banner from this perspective, she's noticed how people in civilian towns react to the national anthem.

She notices the people who continue to talk, the hats that stay on, the beer that doesn't get put down, and even the jeers at the person singing the anthem. The meaning seems to be lost to a majority of people. But if she looks closely, she can see who has been blessed enough to learn this lesson. Some are grandparents, some are parents, and some are young children.

At first glance, children growing up in this world of artillery, tanks and uniforms are the same as any other kids from any other town. They do the things that kids do. They play sports, go to school, and play with their friends. The difference is that their group of friends may change once a year, or more, due to a change of duty station. They don't have any say in this. They could be two years old and not remember a thing about it, or they may be 16 years old getting ready for prom and having to up-root and move again.

They're known as "military brats," a harsh misnomer for those who learn a lifestyle of sacrifice at such a young age. Yet, it makes them strong. The little boys become the men of the house and the little girls become the ladies. They adapt to these different situations. They live with the reality that one, or even both parents, may not be around to celebrate birthdays and holidays. They know there will be will be times when they will look into the stands during Little League games and see only an empty space in the bleachers.

At the same time, these kids have a sense of overwhelming pride. They brag about their daddies and their mommies being the best of the best. They know their Mom's been through deployments, changes of duty stations, and the ever- changing schedules Army life brings. While Dad is away, she takes care of the house, the bills, the cars, the dogs, and the baby.

To cope with it all, she learns military families communicate via the Internet so he doesn't miss out on what's happening back home. But he does miss out. He won't be there for the baby's first steps, and he may have to hear his son or daughter's first words through a time delay across a static-filled telephone line.

She remembers what it was like before he left, when everything seemed "normal." Normal except for the pressed uniform, the nightly ritual of shining boots, the thunder-like sound of the Apache helicopters flying overhead, and the artillery shells heard off in the distance. OK, relatively normal - when they occasionally went to the park, spent holidays together and even enjoyed four- day weekends when he could get a pass.

But, the real challenge began with the phone call. She relives the moments before she kissed him goodbye. A phone ringing at 0400 hours is enough to make her heart end up in her throat. They've been expecting the call, but they weren't sure when it would come. She waits to hear the words, "Don't worry, it's just a practice run." But instead she hears, "Here we go."

So, off he goes to pack, though most of the packing is finished because as a soldier, he is "always ready to roll." She gets the baby, but leaves his pajamas on because it is just as well that he sleeps. She takes the dogs out, she gets dressed, all the while trying to catch glimpses of her husband. She wants to cherish his presence because she doesn't know when she'll see him again. She knows that in other homes nearby, other families are enacting exactly the same scene.

Within 15 minutes, the family is in the car heading to the "rally point." As they pull up, they see soldiers everywhere, hugging their loved ones. While people love to see tearful, joyous homecomings, fearful, anxious, farewells are another story. Too soon, with his gear over his shoulder, he walks away. She is left behind, straining to keep an eye on her soldier. As the camouflage starts to blend, only his walk distinguishes him from the others. She takes one last look and takes a deep breath. She reminds herself she must stay strong. No tears. Or, as few tears as possible. Just words of encouragement to the children, to her friends and to herself.

Then she turns, walks back to the car, and makes her way home to a house that is now eerily quiet. She mentally prepares for the days, weeks, even months ahead. She needs to focus on taking care of her love while he is overseas. Her main priorities will be the care packages, phone calls, e-mails, and letters sprayed with perfume. And, she can't forget to turn the stamp upside down to say, "I love you."

Taking care of her family, her friends, even strangers - this is her mission as an Army wife to do these things without a second thought. At the ripe old age of 22, she knows the younger wives will turn to her for advice. "How do you balance a checkbook? How do you change a tire? When are they coming home?"

Only when she knows everyone else is OK, the bills are paid, the cars maintained, the lawn cut, the kids asleep, the pets calmed down, and the lights are off, does she take time for her self. Alone at night, she runs the next day's events over in her mind to make sure it will all get finished. She reviews her checklist of things to do, things to buy for his care package. Once again, she checks the calendar to count down the days. Before turning in, she checks to make sure the ringer is on for the late night phone call that might come in from overseas.

Before she falls asleep, a few tears hit the pillow. But even as the tears escape, strength enters her mind, body, spirit and soul. She remembers why she is here. She remembers the pride and the love that brought her here in the first place, and a sense of peace comes over her, replacing, if only for a second, the loneliness, the fear and the lingering heartache she feels while her soul mate is away.

This is what it means to love a soldier.

She wouldn't have it any other way.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Bad Week for World Cup Picks

All right, let's get the important stuff out of the way first, this week sucked for my World Cup Teams!!!!!

1) Japan got smoked by Brazil with a score of 4-1
2) The US lost because of a poorly called penalty kick to Ghana, 2-1
3) Korea lost to Switzerland after a offsides goal was allowed, 2-0

On the other hand, my friend showed me this wonderful soccer commercial that captures my feelings very well.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Now that my whining is done, the rest of this "weekend" was great. We went home on Wednesday and stayed until Saturday. We didn't do much on Thursday other than watch the US get screwed out of a game (didn't I say I was done whining?). On Friday, we celebrated Phillip and Anna's birthday with the family. I got to meet my new niece and it was good seeing everyone again (it had been about two months since we were last back home with everyone). We made Korean BBQ, Bulgogi and Rice. It was the largest group that we had ever fed. I learned to cook it recently using the ancient Korean method.

Well, that's not exactly how I learned, more of a trial and error style. We weren't sure if everyone would like it, but the feedback was very positive. People liked trying something different. I cooked it on my parents gas grill. When I first started grilling, a decade ago, I used a gas grill. After one of our many PCS moves the grill didn't survive the trip. We started to use a charcoal grill that was leftover from the previous tenants at our new house. When I went to Iraq, Mary bought a full-sized charcoal grill. Although apprehensive at first, I have come to love my charcoal grill. Cooking on the gas grill has reconfirmed my preference for charcoal.

Other than that, the party went great and the kids were very happy that everyone could make it. It's amazing how fast our time here is going. It's also a little sad.

The other thing that we did on Friday was to visit my Grandpa. He has Alzheimer's and doesn't recall a lot of things, but you can still see the spark of what made him so special to all of us. Anna liked him immediately. Especially after he let her play with his stuffed puppy.

Today Mary will check on getting tickets to the Lifest concert, which is a huge Christian music concert that goes from July 05-09. It's very reasonably priced, but feeding the family for 5 straight days would wipe us out so we're probably only going to do two days. I'll let you know what happens later one.

All in all a great weekend. We even left on time!!!!!!! Thanks to everyone who helped out. We really appreciated it.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

World Cup Fever

Outside the window of my house are huge crowds of World Cup soccer fans. I can hear the shouting and cheering from people at the bars (there was even a guy passed out in front of the neighbor's house this morning) and the occasional celebratory fire in response to Ghana's victory of the Czech, keeping the true American dream alive!!!! If the US can beat those dirty Italians today and Ghana on Thursday AND Czech and Italy tie then there's a chance that the US could make it into the next round!

Of course, there's no crowds outside my window and the bars are silent, but there was a guy passed out on the neighbor's steps and I'm still rooting for the US and South Korea. The South Korean soccer jersey and "Be the Reds" t-shirts are out in force right now.

Also, I changed my blog layout again for all the nay sayers out there. Eventually, I'll get around to making my own custom layout instead of using pre-made templates, but that'll be another day.

Earlier this week one of our friends had her wallet and phone stolen from her car....WHILE PARKED IN OUR DRIVEWAY!!!!! They found the wallet down the road and the theif made a few phone calls right after stealing the phone. That tears out, I'm buying a watch dog. I'm not sure if it's going to be a weiner dog or a Chihuaha, but either way, it's going to be intense.

Between the thieves and the drunks, World Cup fever just MIGHT be striking.

The US (blue) going for a backwards flip-kick into a goal against the fiendish Czechs last Monday. Final score - 3 (Czech) to ZERO (US)...........

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Silly Faces for Anna's B-Day

We're trying a new layout. Let me know what you think.

Anna was 2 years old yesterday!!!! I can't believe how old she's getting, as well as how bratty! She is certainly entering her terrible two's and her and I occassionally have the non-verbal conversation.

Other than that, we got Phillip and Nicholas' report cards today and both did great in school! Marina just came back from a camping trip and today she went to a babysitting certification class, so she is officially certified! Plus, they added her name to the Fort McCoy babysitter's list so hopefully she'll get a few calls from that too.

We stayed up really late last night watching Zathura and were all dragging ass today. After we went swimming for Anna's Birthday, we all took a good nap, which was sorely needed. The pool in Tomah is really nice, because there's a large wading area for the little kids and then the regular pool has three diving boards and is very large. We bought a family season pass for $39 so now we can go whenever we want, plus it's right behind the house which makes it even easier.

Yesterday we made a backyard soccer field. Used up about 4 cans of spray paint and it'll be gone after I mow the lawn, but we did have the first official game in the "Pavek Cup" tournament. The most important thing that we found out...... Mary and I suck at soccer.

Here's a picture of the kids after I told them to clean their rooms.

Here's Anna with her birthday present from our friend Jennifer.

Also, in honor of South Korea's World Cup win today, here's one from 4 years ago.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Visits from Friends and Family

Time flies by too quickly nowadays. I can't believe it's the middle of May already! This last month has been really busy with work and family.

On the work side, we started running operations at Fort McCoy last month with a hospital unit. The section that I work with controls and synchronizes the training aspect of everything. That is to say we unscrew what gets screwed up. The first month there was a lot of work to do. Now we're just going steady. My shift goes from 5 AM to 2 PM so it's not too hard for the family, although I do go to bed before the kids sometimes! Also, we have to have somebody at Fort McCoy 24x7 so that means that days off don't usually occur with the weekends. This makes it hard to go home and visit family while school is still going on.

Fortunately, Mary's parents were able to come and visit us twice, including Mother's Day and my parents were able to make it for Marina's solo choral debut in the beginning of the month. We really appreciated those visits and if anything it keeps Mary and I on our feet cleaning the house LOL.

Also, Mary's friend Jenny (she calls herself Jennifer now, but she'll always be Jenny to us) and her husband visited us. We went to Warrens to see the Cranberry Museum. I think both of our parents would like to see that so next time they're here maybe we'll take them. Marina was helping at a benefit event. I'm very proud of her for doing that.

Next time I'll post some more pics.

Until later.......................................

Friday, April 07, 2006

More Marina and a video of Anna

Our girl made it into the local newspaper..... for a good reason! Way to go Marina!

Also here is a video of Anna with her Snowmen

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Bike Riding

Well, spring is here and we've been enjoying the weather. Today we went on a six-mile bike trip which was a lot of fun. We've also been cooking on the grill every chance we get. I've convinced myself that it's healthier for me so I feel good about myself when I eat that 12 oz steak.

Here's Marina's latest picture too.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Another Brigade Formal Pic

We've never had a lot of luck with Formal pics, but I thought that this one turned out pretty well. It was our third shot since Mary has a habit of blinking during the shoots. That's the beauty of digital cameras though.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Brigade Formal

Last night Mary and I went to the Brigade Formal. I'm including a pic that Felipe and Ruth took at the house right before we left.

A couple of other Army annoucements; as further proof that the Army has reached an all-time high desperation level, I was selected for promotion to Major. The promotion will most likely occur sometime this fall. Additionally, I was also selected for FA 57 as my career field. FA 57 is computer simulations, which is about all I know at this time. I think there will be a big departure from the Army life that I have known up until now, although I'm not sure to what extent. It's a lot like starting over in a way, more to follow on that one.

Mary and I both realize that we haven't been the best at keeping this blog updated and promise to do a better job. We'll write another update later this month. I hope that everyone out there is doing fine and keep the comments coming.